Expressive therapy, also known as the expressive therapies, expressive arts therapy or creative arts therapy, is the use of the creative arts as a form of therapy. Unlike traditional art expression, the process of creation is emphasized rather than the final product. Expressive therapy is predicated on the assumption that people can heal through use of imagination and the various forms of creative expression.
Expressive therapy is an umbrella term. Some common types of expressive therapy include:
- expressive arts therapy (in conjunction with one another, a truer understanding of healing comes into play between the use of various media to look at a situation or feeling)
- art therapy
- dance therapy, also known as dance/movement therapy
- drama therapy
- psychodrama an elaborate study of role play created and fostered by J.L. and Zerka Moreno
- music therapy
- writing therapy, a term which may encompass journaling, poetry therapy, and bibliotherapy
- film/video-based therapy
All expressive therapists share the belief that through creative expression and the tapping of the imagination, a person can examine the body, feelings, emotions and his or her thought process. However, expressive arts therapy is its own therapeutic discipline, an inter-modal discipline where the therapist and client move freely between drawing, dancing, music, drama, and poetry. Although often separated by the form of creative art, some expressive therapists consider themselves intermodal, using expression in general, rather than a specific discipline to treat clients, altering their approach based on the clients' needs, or through using multiple forms of expression with the same client to aid with deeper exploration.
Expressive arts therapy is the practice of using imagery, storytelling, dance, music, drama, poetry, movement, horticulture, dreamwork, and visual arts together, in an integrated way, to foster human growth, development, and healing. It is about reclaiming our innate capacity as human beings for creative expression of our individual and collective human experience in artistic form. Expressive arts therapy is also about experiencing the natural capacity of creative expression and creative community for healing (Appalachian Expressive Arts Collective, 2003, Expressive Arts Therapy: Creative Process in Art and Life. Boone, NC: Parkway Publishers. p. 3).
The documentary I Remember Better When I Paint is an international film which documents the positive impact of art and other creative activities on people with Alzheimer's disease. The film demonstrates how expressive therapies bypass limitations.
Films are available from organizations such as Expressive Media Inc., which depict pioneers in the expressive therapies from around the world as they conduct therapy sessions. These films and videos are distributed for training purposes to mental health professionals.
- Americans for the Arts. (2013). National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military: Arts, health and well-being across the military continuum. White paper and framing a national plan for action. Retrieved from http://artsusa.org/pdf/ArtsHealthwellbeingWhitePaper.PDF October 10, 2013.
- Malchiodi, Cathy A. (2003). Expressive Therapies. New York: Guilford ISBN 1-59385-379-3.
- "New York University Literature, Arts and Medicine database". 7 July 2010.
- A Time to Dance: The Life Work of Norma Canner (1998) 75 min, Documentary, Biography by Directors Ian Browned, Webb Wilcoxen
- IEATA - International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (Worldwide)
- NCCATA - National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations (United States)
- EATA HK - Expressive Arts Therapy Association of Hong Kong (Hong Kong and Mainland China)